Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Commissioners boosting security at County facilities

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Commissioners made it clear Tuesday that safety for employees is a priority of theirs, approving the installation of panic buttons at the County Administration Building, the North County Complex in Portage and the Expo Center.

“All three of you have discussed the importance of safety countywide. This is one of those efforts,” said County Facilities Director Matt Stechly as he presented quotes for panic alarm systems for the three venues. The security upgrades were suggested to him by Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North.

If someone in these buildings were to become hostile, the panic alarm button would send a signal to security or to the County’s 911 center to dispatch law enforcement quickly, said Stechly.

The Commissioners approved the lowest quote submitted by ABC Burglar and Fire Alarm, of Gary, at $1,143 for the North County Complex. The lowest submitting quote for the Expo Center at $280 and the Administration Center at $720 were submitted by Martin Security Systems, of Valparaiso. Another vendor submitting bids was Videotec, of Highland.

The security alarm system will be put into the offices of the Assessor, Treasurer, Auditor, Stormwater Management and the County Commissioner Chambers at the County Administration Building.

Stechly said he had hoped to present quotes for a security alarm system upgrade at the Juvenile Detention Center on Ind. 2 but the system there now is too “convoluted” and will need to be worked out at a later date. The alarms at the Porter County Courthouse are however working fine, he said.

The Commissioners also approved replacing the card lock for the door to the Treasurer’s Office. Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, said he would like to see card access in all buildings. “This is where it’s all heading,” he said.

On another matter, Stechly told the Commissioners his crew is handling mulching work on their own whereas the County had been paying $60,000 per year to an outside vendor.

“We’re pruning. We’re trimming trees. We’re sodding. It’s in-house. The investments into the facilities department has been paid off time and time again, so thank you to you and the County Council members who voted to support it,” Stechly said.

Sheriff’s vehicles

The Commissioners decided to allocate CCD funds, totaling $150,000, towards replacing vehicles for the Porter County Sheriff’s Police from the state’s police vehicle program.

Sheriff Dave Reynolds said the plan follows previous year in purchasing nine new vehicles, which would be about $329,000, and putting nine others up for auction.

“We try to take cars out at a safe mileage. We are pushing the envelope with some of these cars,” Reynolds said.

Along with the CCD funds, Reynolds said he would approach the County Council about using unallocated county local income tax funds to make up the difference, which would be $179,000.

Good and Biggs also discussed with Reynolds about searching for ways to better service and insure the 100-plus vehicles that the PCSP has in its fleet.

In other business, the Commissioners approved the Sheriff’s police updating its services with NITCO wireless internet service. The service has been repriced at a lower rate and the speed has improved since the last set up in 2013.

Assessor appeals

Meanwhile, the Commissioners said yes to the County Assessor’s Office contracting with Equi-Val Tax Solutions LLC, of Elkhart, which specializes in tax preparation.

County Assessor Jon Snyder said Equi-Val has an automated tax valuation model that can settle tax appeals faster.

“It helps our staff be able to quickly and efficiently look at an appeal file with quick access to do and make it quick to settle an appeal. It’s also a helpful tool to take to the (Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals) and to the state tax board,” said Snyder. “It’s a good service that saves a lot of time and that’s important in our office.”

Snyder said there is now room in his budget to pay for the $20,000 contract. He hopes his office will incur more savings after its computer system adapts to the County’s IT Department next month.

For the Development and Stormwater Management Offices, the Commissioners approved a scanning services agreement with SBS Group Information and Records Associates. Department Director Robert Thompson said they will scan records from the Plan Commission and Building Department, a project that “is long overdue” and will create more available space in the office.

NWI Economic Development

At the end of their meeting, the Commissioners voted 3-0 to create a new resolution in support of an Economic Development District in Northwest Indiana.

Jody Melton, senior planner for the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, said Porter County had passed a resolution for the creation of an economic district with the other counties in 2014 to submit paperwork to the U.S. Economic Development Administration so the region could be eligible to receive funds.

Melton said the EDA never returned communication until last month but by that time the resolutions were considered too old and they asked that new ones be submitted.

NIRPC had formed a committee in 2009 to receive EDA funds after heavy rains caused major flooding issues in 2008. The EDA grants money for improvements but only to established economic development districts, Melton said.

“President Trump is cutting out money from the EDA in his budget so maybe this is all a waste of time, but we’ve been working on this for eight years and we would at least like to get the designation as long as the EDA continues to function so we may have a chance to go after some of those funds,” he said.

Melton said there is no cost or obligation to Porter County for passing the resolution.

In other approvals:

-- The Commissioners passed, on second readings and final adoption, the U.S. 6 overlay standards and a conservation district rate for the County’s Stormwater Management User Fee of 11.5 cents per month per acre.

-- The Valparaiso Democratic Committee will be allowed to hold a rally on Saturday, April 22 on the Porter County Courthouse’s north lawn from 3 to 5 p.m. to raise awareness of environmental issues in the community and collect bottled water for distribution in East Chicago.

-- The Soil and Water Conservation District will set up a display in the County Administration Building rotunda from May 1 to May 5 in observation of Soil Stewardship Week.

-- Bids for bituminous material were approved for the County Highway Department.

 

 

Posted 4/6/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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